Omar and his ilk in high places must mind their tongues on matters ethnic By MACHARIA GAITHO | Tuesday, December 20 2011 at 09:02
Nearly two months ago, a friend approached me at the local with something that was really troubling him.
The fellow, a good Christian even if he does enjoy his tipple, was worried that the list of nominees for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was top-heavy with Muslims.
He was also worried that Kenyans of Islamic faith, and particularly those of Somali stock, were playing increasingly prominent roles in other commissions and appointments boards.
Apart from Mr Ahmed Isaack Hassan nominated to head the new electoral commission, he singled out lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who played such a prominent role in the vetting and appointment of Supreme Court judges; and MP Abdikadir Hussein Mohammed who chaired Parliament’s Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee.
Ordinarily, I would dismiss such a fellow with contempt, but this was an earnest Kenyan who had what he thought were well-grounded worries.
So I gave him time to ventilate his concerns. I then patiently explained that far from being something to trouble us, we should be celebrating that a group marginalised under successive regimes was finally taking its rightful place in national affairs.
We should be reaping from our diversity rather than treating those different from us – be it religious, clan, sect, ethnicity, race – with suspicion and loathing.
I offered, too, that we should be lauding a meritocracy that places a premium on the best man or woman for the job. I reached through to my friend and we toasted to the new-look Kenya.
I got a rude awakening a few days later, however, when a bunch of MPs threatened to block the list of electoral commissioners sent to Parliament on approval of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
MPs Silas Muriuki, Sammy Mwaita, Mithika Linturi, Kiema Kilonzo, among others, claimed that the list was skewed in favour of Muslims, and yet the majority of Kenyans were Christians.
It was the kind of desperate move bankrupt politicians resort to when they realise an open and transparent system based on meritocracy robs them of the power enjoyed to appoint only political lackeys to sensitive office.
Those MPs were worried that come 2012, Mr Hassan might demonstrate the leadership and competence proved when he headed the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.
The MPs beat a quick retreat when they realised that Kenyans had seen through their selfish ruse. But no doubt such blinkered mindsets still predominate in all levels of Kenyan leadership.
One fellow in high places who is a kindred spirit with the ethnic- and religious-baiting MPs is my friend Hassan Omar Hassan of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
Mr Hassan recently stirred the hornet’s nest with some obvious home truths on domination of key and strategic national institutions and installations by officers handpicked from President Kibaki’s ethnic bastion.
During the Moi kleptocracy, one could be jailed for possessing some tract, “Moi’s security home-boys”, that identified key officers in the police, military, provincial administration, and national Intelligence who hailed from the environs of President Moi’s village, and the general cluster of the Kalenjin conglomerate.
President Kibaki obviously learnt a lesson from his predecessor, and also sought to replicate the Kenyatta state, by packing the national security and provincial administration machinery, and other key government ministries and departments, with bosses who can hold official meetings in the Kikuyu mother-tongue.
Those are self-evident truths that only an ostrich would dispute. But then Mr Hassan steps way off the mark when he suggests that all Kikuyus should, therefore, be barred from public office.
Mr Hassan is not just a human rights commissioner, but he also chairs the National Police Service Commission panel.
When he takes to the soapbox to declare, even before the panel sits to go through the applications, that the next police chief must not be a Kikuyu, then he is exhibiting no more sensitivity and tact than the aforementioned politicians who have a reflexive phobia for Somalis and Muslims.
Mr Hassan actually disqualifies himself from sitting on the panel that will interview candidates for Inspector-General of Police.
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